Todays’s readings… Leviticus 3&4, Psalm 104, 1 Corinthians 12&13
One of the problems in Corinth Paul had heard about, was “concerning spiritual gifts” [1 Cor. 12 v.1] This chapter and the next two show that the improper use of the gifts by some was a large problem. Of course, with the Gospels not yet in circulation, the existence of spiritual gifts had real purpose. Paul says that “the manifestation of the Spirit (was) for the common good. To one is given the spirit of the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge, according to the same spirit, to another, faith …” [v.7-9]
We pondered the inclusion of “faith” as a gift – and recalled the times when Jesus chided his disciples “O you of little faith [Matt.8 v.26 etc] so we conclude that among that first generation of believers it was vital, on occasions, to have a man of firm faith, to steady the ecclesial boat when it was rocking and faith was weakening. Chapter 12 ends by telling us, “But earnestly desire the higher gifts” – those named first would be in this category, they were of the most value for their spiritual health.
The last named gifts are tongues and the ability to interpret them (v.30) and Paul warns in Ch, 14 that if these are used in church “and outsiders and unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds” [v.24] – clearly they were to enable those who possessed them to give the message, when they had opportunity, to those of other languages. Acts 2 v.11 describes the impact of this on the day of Pentecost – “”we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God”
The final words in Ch. 12 are “And now I show you a still more excellent way” – this brings us to Ch. 13 and its oft quoted words praising the vital role of love. “If I give away all I have …. But have not love, I gain nothing” [v.3] is one of the points Paul makes. He says, “Love never ends … prophecies … will pass away … tongues, they will cease …” [v.8] The final verse tells us, “So now faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
These words provoked a final thought – when Christ’s kingdom is established, faith will be turned to sight and hope fulfilled – but love will last forever. Those who commit themselves to embrace the things that abide today and live with this wonderful future before them will, by God’s grace, live forever with love as the dominating factor in their lives..